Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityA 'twirling' legacy: Rayceen Pendarvis continues to connect and inspire generations | WJLA
Close Alert

A 'twirling' legacy: Rayceen Pendarvis continues to connect and inspire generations

Rayceen Pendarvis (Team Rayceen)
Rayceen Pendarvis (Team Rayceen)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

Rayceen Pendarvis describes herself as the "Queen of The Shameless Plug, the Empress of Pride and The Goddess of DC."

For decades, Pendarvis has been a force in the District of Columbia.

From the 1963 March on Washington, to Black Lives Matter Plaza in 2020, Rayceen's dynamic presence has been a part of nearly every modern social and civil rights movement in Washington.

"You have to go through a trial," says Pendarvis.

"You have to go through something to have a legacy. And it lets me know that those who of those who stood so I may twirl, and that I stood so others may twirl," she adds chuckling.

Father Of 5, Mother To Many

The self-described "two spirit" individual goes by she/her pronouns and proudly proclaims they are a father of five but a mother to many.

ABC7 Executive Producer Alex Spearman recently brought Pendarvis and Lee Levingston Perine, one of her many “children”, together for a conversation.

"She is a mother, she is an institution, she is a legend and she is a preserver of our history," says Perine, who like Pendarvis has a passion for bringing people together.

Perine is the founder of Makers Lab, a DC based LGBTQ art collective.

"And I am a really big fan of Rayceen," he adds.

She is a mother, she is an institution, she is a legend and she is a preserver of our history.

Across generations, both Rayceen and Lee have dedicated their lives to creating space for and celebrating Black and LGBTQ people of color in the Nation's Capital.

Pendarvis was one of the emcees for DC's very first Black Pride in 1991.

Rayceen says that people were scared because "folks were dying and afraid to talk about HIV and AIDS."

And while the popular and long-running Capital Pride, DC’s signature LGBT pride event, was one way the LGBTQ community faced the epidemic, Rayceen says that people of color did not feel wholly welcome.

"There were things that needed to be addressed for us, so they created the Black Pride experience."

RELATED: Capital Pride DC: LGBTQ Etiquette 101 with AJ King & Rayceen Pendarvis

Rayceen goes on to describe an early morning at the historic Banneker field across from the historically Black college, Howard University.

"The sun began to rise and come up Georgia avenue, and a sea of Blackness was emerging as if we were going through the middle passage and coming to freedom."

Rayceen says she wept as she saw 60 thousand faces of people of color from all walks of life, "because I knew this was greater than myself."

Perine says that it is inspiration from pioneers like Pendarvis, that motivates his work today.

"Black pride is my absolute favorite weekend in DC; in 2012, I started hosting parties during DC Black Pride, so I've always been involved in that weekend of celebration."

Going Virtual

Lee and the Makers Lab team were planning events for Black Pride 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person gatherings to a halt.

Perine innovated and as a result he created "Black In Space", a 5 day virtual arts festival.

"It just showed us the power and possibility of our work and how we can reach people all over the world."

It just showed us the power and possibility of our work and how we can reach people all over the world.

Pendarvis also pressed on, taking the popular "Ask Rayceen Show" virtual, solidifying its place as THE destination for culture, entertainment, politics and community in DC.

Pendarvis says she and "Team Rayceen" her colorful and charismatic group of producers, booking agents, managers, editors and other support, refused to let the pandemic stop them from being a safe space for marginalized people.

"When things shook up during the pandemic, we had to rethink and reformulate and Team Rayceen rallied and we formed these wonderful experiences."

Team Rayceen played host to 2020's historic majority of female DC Council Members, hosted panel conversations focusing on the plight of LBGTQ people in Africa and other important topics, all virtually.

Team Rayceen also partnered with Perine's "Black In Space."

"I think people have reminded us that this work is healing, and it was really important for them to see themselves through the pandemic when they are feeling isolated, when they are feeling alone, when they are wondering when this is going to end," says Perine.

The Work Isn't Over

While The Ask Rayceen Show is entering its 10th and final season, the maven says her work is as important as ever.

Pendarvis says "it lets me know that the tears I've cried, you know for the many times that people don't see." She pauses. "They only see the joy, they don't see the times people have said no to you, the shade or the arrows. They don't see that for you to stand you had to kneel a couple of times and be humble. But when I see community come together and I see that sometimes even though I can say that I wish 'so and so' would have been here on this journey with me, that I am pushed because I am fueled by their spirit."

As Lee has learned and grown from Rayceen's inspiration, Team Rayceen is fostering the next generation with Rayceen's producer, Krylios.

"I mean, it's Rayceen!" Says the jubilant Jamaican native. "She's a legend she's an icon she is the moment!"

"Everything that I have been doing and putting my all into Team Rayceen because I know it matters," Krylios adds.

Krylios says Team Rayceen is building community by showcasing queer people of color and the local DC community.

"I feel so privileged as a queer person from Jamaica to be able to have this opportunity to not only share my story, but to share the story of so many others."

All three generations are ensuring that this vibrant and resilient community in Washington will have a safe space for years to come.

Comment bubble

Loading ...